N


N


Now you see it / now you don’t.
As if energised by the rain, the ground shifts in numerous places
simultaneously: now in front, now behind.
Now beneath the pond, now around the bank,
now beyond. Now under my knuckles.
Now under my knees.

Too close for comfort. I start back, away from it. Then
I can take it all in - its undulating movements
animating the foundation. The ground churning.
Now and then (or now and now – and now! And now! And now!)
its skin can be seen, glinting silver. And it’s enormous:
a monster. I’m reminded suddenly, incongruously, of the encyclopaedias
I’d kneel and learn of heraldry in:
a serpent, argent.
A snake, rampant.
An adder, courant.
In the reflection of the heavens, the clouds have gained negative height,
turned to inverse nimbus. Around it,
the Nāga turns and turns
up and down, in and out between
the liminals of the elements…
nimble as lightning through the muck!
Until, eventually,
I notice it’s forming
into an unbroken ring.


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For #NaPoWriMo2018 I set myself the task of writing a poem for each letter of the English (and hence, if you prefer, Latin) alphabet. The encyclopedias mentioned in this poem were a big part of my long-held desire to undertake this project - the ones we had in the house when I was a child, 'The Book of Knowledge', had entries for each letter which described their origin. 

The poems are a sequence and you can read the first thirteen under each of these links:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M 

I am clearly not going to make it to the end of the alphabet before the end of the month, my intention to produce a poem a day having been derailed by a bout of sickness; however I will continue the project into May and so hope to conclude my pilgrimage to the letter Z a little later in the spring.

The letter 'N' is derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph for a snake. In later incarnations of the letter it was called 'Nun' and represented a fish; so the water association here - which has carried over from the poem for 'M' - is appropriate. A 'Nāga' as mentioned in the poem is a word in Indian and other cultures for a snake, and in particular a King Cobra, and in even more particularity still, a divine 'great snake'. There's a strong temptation to go very 'negative' with 'n': no, not, nowhere, never, un-, in-, anti -. I didn't want to get sucked into that so resisted it as much as I could. A couple of those words have snuck in, nevertheless.

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